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Thursday, February 8, 2024 - Day 17
Prior Legislative Updates for this Year

Today at the state Capitol

The House Education Committee approved legislation this afternoon that would require schools to make available a nationally recognized, multiple-aptitude battery assessment (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or ASVAB exam) that measures and helps predict future academic and occupational success in the military.  The bill number is HB 995.

Senate hearing on Social Security benefits for ESPs
The Senate Retirement Committee convened this afternoon to discuss SB 206, legislation that would codify in state law a requirement that school systems participate in the Social Security System for education staff whose retirement benefits are derived from the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).

School districts may offer an "alternative" retirement plan but it must be comparable to Social Security benefits.  PSERS is a state pension that was specifically established for school bus drivers, cafeteria works, custodians, and maintenance personnel.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry, and former Senate Retirement Committee chair Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Harris County, spoke to the legislation.

Robertson told the committee that after a "town hall meeting" with GAE members and specifically GAE ESP (Education Support Professionals) members, he and Walker became passionate about the issue.

ESPs at the hearing in Columbus, Georgia, on December 17, 2022, shared their stories and spoke about the very small amount they would receive in retirement (the average monthly pension check in retirement being $290 a month).  Several ESPs testified that they work in school districts that do not participate in the Social Security System for their benefit or offer another retirement option.

On learning the shamefully low amount members of the PSERS receive in retirement benefits and hearing that school districts were not paying into Social Security, Robertson added: "We were mad after hearing."

At the hearing today, Sen. Walker introduced Jim Potvin, executive director of the state Employees Retirement System (ERS), which administers the PSERS plan and who conducted a survey of school districts in Georgia top determine which districts were providing Social Security benefits for school bus drivers, cafeteria works, custodians, and maintenance personnel in the PSERS.

Potvin shared with the committee the results of the survey.

It was determined that 24 school districts were not paying into Social Security for school employees in the PSERS.  Of these, Sen. Walker said, "These school districts are doing a disservice to employees," also pointing out that local systems pay nothing into PSERS.

Sixteen school system failed to respond.

Some said that their district has a qualified, "replacement" plan that includes ESPs.

Walker and Potvin plan to enlist the Office of the State Auditor and the Department of Audits and Accounts to verify the results, for example, verifying that the districts that say they are paying into Social Security for staff covered by the PSERS are actually doing so.  A state audit would also be used to verify that the "replacement" plans school districts say that they have established actually meet the standards to be an actual qualified plan.

No further action was taken on SB 206 today.

Senate committee to hear bill that
would replace school counselors with chaplains

Tomorrow at 8 a.m., the Senate Education and Youth Committee will take up SB 379, which authorizes public schools to retain volunteer "school chaplains" to "provide support, services, and programs for students."  The bill states: "Such school chaplains may be employed or accepted as volunteers ... in lieu of employing school counselors to perform the duties required of a school counselor."  Under the bill, "school chaplains" need no formal training or education, no background checks, and need not be a certified professional.

Bill proposes back-to-school sales tax holiday

For many years, until 2016, the state of Georgia suspended the collection of sales taxes on school supplies and clothing for a short period of time before the start of the school year.  A bill, HB 1171, proposes to bring back this "back-to-school" sales tax holiday.  Should the bill pass, the sales tax holiday would occur during the last two weeks of July each year.
Bill requires schools to give parents info on Type 1/Type 2 diabetes

HB 1183 states:

"If a local board of education provides information on immunizations, infectious diseases, medications, or other school health issues to parents and guardians of students in grades six through 12, then ... information about Type 1 and Type 2 diabete shall be included."

Senate passes bill to restrict unions

The Senate passed a bill today, SB 362, which states that an employer, to be eligible for state economic development incentives, may not extend or "voluntarily grant recognition rights for the ... employees solely ... on the basis of signed labor organization authorization cards if the selection of a bargaining representative may instead be conducted through a secret ballot election."  The vote was 31-23.
Bill establishes 'School Supplies for Teachers Program'

The chair of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Gwinnett, has introduced SB 464, to provide financial assistence for eligible teachers to purchase school supplies online.

"Eligble teachers" are defined as a teacher who "has the primary responsibility of providing classroom instruction to students for not less than 60 percent of each school day on average, measured weekly."

Confirmed speakers for GAE
2024 Day at the Capitol

State School Superintendent Richard Woods
House Education and House Retirement Committee, David Wilkerson, D-Cobb County
Rep. Chris Erwin, chair, House Education Committee, R-Homer
Rep. Ken Vance, former educator and GAE member, R-Milledgeville
Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes, D-Duluth, sponsor of GAE's waiver bill, SB 268
Sen. Derek Mallow, D-Savannah

Join your colleagues and fellow GAE members at our 2024 Day at the Capitol

Join your colleagues and friends at the 2024 GAE Day at the Capitol on Thursday, February 22.  Hear and meet from legislators who are influential in the adoption of education legislation and policy.  Click on the photo below to register.
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